The critical must haves for short or long trips!
If you have kids in your life in any way then you know traveling can be a challenge. Whether it's short car journeys, long train rides, or plane adventures there are things to consider. Personally, I have two kids and we have traveled on most types of transportation with varying levels of success.
Of course you have to consider the length of travel and how much space you can take up with kid accessories...because DANG can they require a lot of STUFF.
However, after much soul searching and reflection on prior successful, and not so successful trips, I have decided that these 5 things can make or break a trip. If you don't have these things, your trip can go from dream adventure to total catastrophe in a blink of an eye. Zip-loc bags are the unsung hero of travel. You will see them mentioned in almost all sections listed below.
#1 - Important Documents
Whenever you are traveling with minors, you should always have copies of their birth certificates and any other documents that may be necessary in the event that they need medical treatment. While we never want to think about the worst case scenario, you definitely don't want to be in a situation where you need to have a child treated and decisions can't be made because of custody or citizenship issues.
Are you divorced?
If you are divorced and traveling with kids that are in a shared custody situation, you must have documentation if you are crossing state lines with children. Custody laws are very clear about this and the permissions vary based on the agreements of the separation or divorce. Be sure you consult your agreements and get the appropriate documentation and permissions well before you travel.
#2 - Kits and Meds
I keep a basic sewing kit on my at all times. Literally one of those tiny, from the dollar store, kits that are smaller than a credit card.
I cannot tell you how often it has come in handy. This applies even more when traveling with kids. Yeah, I've sung the praises of the zip-loc bag (and will continue to do so below) but you will be a triumphant hero simply for the existence of a safety pin on your person in time of need. We've all experienced a lost button, busted zipper, or split seam. Safety pins can be day savers (especially if you don't have a change of clothes - See #5).
Never underestimate the healing power of a Band-Aid. I am sure that caregivers across the world will agree that the application of a band-aid can miraculously "cure" a number of ills. Now, I'm a science person by trade, so I'm NOT actually of the belief that the band-aid is an actual cure all. However, I have seen strategic band-aid use calm a crying child where nothing else would do.
That being said - sometimes there is actual blood and you need a band-aid for real.
Having a very basic first aid kit on hand with kids around is a great idea. I am not saying carry a surgical pack capable of addressing serious injury at all times. What I am saying is have a plain old zip-loc bag containing these items with you. All of these items will fit in a sandwich size bag.
Kid's Basic First Aid Kit for Traveling
Band-aids the kind with favorite characters on them are perfect for the calming effect, the kind that stretch are best for most other wounds when kids are moving.
Pain relief cream or sprayAnti-bacterial wipes
ThermometerKid's pain/fever reducer like Kid's Tylenol or Motrin
Kid's Dramamine and Imodium
Now, really, it should go without saying that you should take medicines that you take everyday on vacation with you. But you would be amazed at how many people leave the house without them. Another thing to be sure of is to have the meds in your carry-on bags and not in your checked luggage if you are traveling by rail or plane. Even when boarding cruise ships, make sure that your medicines are in the bags you are carrying.
Always keep a list of what medications each traveler takes daily with the dosages.
#3 - Snacks
Traveling with appropriate snacks is a necessity for anyone as far as I'm concerned. Not all snacks are created equal though. I think it is an unwritten law of the universe that kids drop at least 25% of any snack given in a moving vehicle. Therefore, adults must prepare for the consequences of drops and spills. If they drop it, is it going to stain or melt? If so, then it is a big NO GO. Even more importantly is it going to STINK after a few minutes? Spoiling, rotting items are the epitome of an absolutely NOT travel snack. While some of the above snacks can be pretty messy when dropped (I'm looking at you popcorn) they aren't going to stain or smell making them easier to clean up.
Snack sized zip-loc bags are the king in this category. These small bags can hold single serve snacks of infinite variety that adults can produce at any given moment. I try to carry about four options on any trip so that I can prevent any hangry incidents during the trip.
Traveling by plane with smaller kids?
Be sure to have snacks that require a lot of chewing - like gummy snacks or similar. This helps keep their ears "popping" and releases the atmospheric pressure pain. You can't explain to a toddler what is happening, so if you can prevent the pain by treating them to a gummy snack on take off and landing, everyone will be happier.
Drinks are somewhat more difficult because there are very few drinks besides water that would meet these criteria. When we traveled with toddlers, we made sure to take a non-spill cup that we could pour anything in for the kids. This prevents the above problems and we could easily share drinks between multiple kids.
#4 - Are you not entertained?
Every parent has strong opinions on how to entertain their kids. What is appropriate for different situations. I will say this - have QUIET entertainment on tap for your kids for any mode of travel. The people on the trains and planes will thank you. Having a selection of entertainment options ready to go is a must. Here are few things that are our go to for travel entertainment. My kids are big enough to carry their own backpacks, so their packs are loaded with their snacks (see above) and their entertainment choices and change of clothes (see below).
Good old fashioned books. My oldest reads chapter books, so she brings at least one on each journey. The youngest isn't old enough for full blown independent reading so she brings small readers and at least one activity book.
Headphones - I don't care if they are using a tablet, a phone, a laptop, or some other kid's tech device. Well fitting headphones are a MUST for kid's travel. A few trips ago, we bought these CozyPhones for both girls. These are noise control headphones (meaning they can't be so loud they damage eardrums) that have flat speakers inside that you can slide around that allows you to adjust where the speakers are based on the size of your kid's noggin. They are comfortable and cute, win-win.
Tablets - I know this is a contested answer. Tablets does not have to mean inappropriate content. My girls use their tablets for a number of age appropriate educational apps and other media. For example, audio books that allow my younger reader to follow along a chapter book that would otherwise be too tough for her, or handwriting apps that teach cursive with fun interactions. Netflix allows you to download full episodes of shows. This allows you complete control over what your kids have available to them in places with little or no WIFI.
Games - Cards, small travel games like travel connect four, tic-tac-toe and scrabble can be great. You know your kids best, plan accordingly.
Cameras - Also a somewhat contested answer, However, a kid friendly point and shoot camera can provide endless entertainment for your littles. Also, I think you'll be surprised at the shots your kids will get that provide a unique perspective of their journey.
#5 - Clothing and Accessories
Again, clothes seem like an obvious thing but hear me out! I'm not talking about your standard list of pants, shorts and shirts. I'm saying DO YOUR RESEARCH on the weather, the activities you'll be doing and necessary accessories these things require.
Are you going to the beach? If so, will there be accessories there to rent? If you don't want to spend the cash on rentals you'll need your own snorkel gear. Ill fitting masks are the WORST, I highly recommend taking your own if you're going anywhere and expect to snorkel.
Hot weather has a list of requirements too - hats, sunscreen, layers for sun cover. Having to buy these when you arrive can not only be expensive, you're at the mercy of what's available.
What about cold?
Same list here to some extent - hats, layers, and gloves (i recommend at least two sets per kid - they lose stuff).
Personal story time - When my oldest kid was smaller we went to a Christmas lights show at Stone Mountain in Georgia. Now, we had coats and were prepared for it to be cool-ish. But the temperature bottomed out and it was FRIGID. Gloves were necessary and we didn't have any. There were no kid's gloves anywhere in this park for purchase...none. We had to buy a pack of socks for my poor kid to put on her hands. It was a mother-of-the-year banner moment. She survived without frost bite and minimal crying, but lesson learned and now I check the weather forecast like a maniac. Again - checking the weather seems like a no-brainer but...
Last (but really first) What is the weather where you are going? Frequently we travel from a cold location to a hot location. For example, when we lived in Tennessee, I would travel to Orlando a LOT. If you're leaving 19 degrees and landing in 88 degrees it is quite the adjustment.
When traveling with kids, layers can be a real winner, but always (and I mean ALWAYS) have a change of clothes on hand. Puke happens. Spills happen. So many unpredictable things can happen to make a change of clothes necessary. Yet again the zip-loc bags come in handy. A gallon bag will hold a full change of clothes and seal up an catastrophic accident until it can be dealt with.